The problem is what Amen then told prosecutors was incredibly damaging to their case. He is now free to testify for Jackson without fear of penalty.
This column told you exclusively several weeks ago that Amen had met in secret with the prosecution. But now we know, after court papers were filed this afternoon, that he received "use immunity" from District Attorney Tom Sneddon.
But in papers filed by Jackson's attorneys this afternoon, we've learned that what Amen said "contradicted the statements of the Arvizo family and defeated circumstantial evidence inferences which the government has made. As a whole, Mr. Amen's statements were exculpatory."
In other words: The conspiracy case — already weakened to the point of being laughable — is all but over. Amen was the key participant in the government's reasoning that there was some kind of conspiracy. He spent the most time with the Arvizos and knows more about them than anyone.
According to today's filing, the defense will call Amen shortly. Per his "use immunity" agreement, all he has to do is testify truthfully. And the prosecution has already indicated that he will; that's why they didn't call him for their side.
It’s hard to believe that the District Attorney’s office proceeded with the conspiracy part of Michael Jackson’s case once they interviewed Vinnie Amen.
The news that this column was first to report on March 31 and then give you an update on last night is startling: Back on Dec. 30, 2004, Tom Sneddon offered Amen “use immunity” and then interviewed him. In doing so, Sneddon learned (as we reported in March) that there was no conspiracy, and that Amen and Frank Tyson felt held hostage to Janet Arvizo, and not vice versa.
In fact, once Sneddon finished with Amen, he clearly must have realized that the conspiracy part of the case had no substance. The question, then, is why bother going on with it?
The conspiracy has only served to weigh down the child molestation case. Arvizo’s erratic testimony about being kidnapped has only undermined the molestation allegations.
Amen will now likely testify right before or after comedian Chris Tucker and his ex-fiancée Azja Pyor. The effect of this trio should be devastating to the prosecution. All three will tell convincing stories of Arvizo’s demands, fantasies and hallucinations.
When the jury meets Amen, they will no doubt be shocked to encounter a mild-mannered and polite young man of slight build. They will have a lot of trouble imagining him holding Arvizo and her three boisterous, large children against their will.
But the question still lingers: Why did the district attorney’s office endanger the far more serious child molestation case with the creaky conspiracy case if they knew full well, a month in advance of trial, that the charges would not stand up?
I don’t know why assistant District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss still doesn’t get it about Michael Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. I will try and explain this again: Jackson owns 50 percent of the company. Each half is worth about $500 million. One half is not larger than the other, even though Auchincloss keeps stating that in court.
Auchincloss has a theory that Sony has put more into the company than Jackson, making the singer’s portion worth less if it were settled out.
As I reported in this space previously: Sony makes acquisitions to the company on behalf of itself and Jackson. Per their agreement, Sony funds Jackson’s portion of each acquisition. That amount is then charged to Jackson in a 10-year amortization. On paper it looks like he’s incurred a debt. But in fact, the investments pay off quickly and Jackson is not held accountable for Sony’s investment.
It makes for a more dramatic presentation if Jackson could be proven to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Indeed, he is always cash poor and illiquid, to use a fancy word.
Auchincloss has some idea that Jackson needed to make his rebuttal video, called “Take Two,” with the Arvizos because he had no money and his career was about to end. This is about as wrong-headed an idea as could be.
Martin Bashir’s documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” had no impact on Jackson’s singing career. It’s safe to say no one in the world was shocked into not liking Jackson anymore when they saw that special. It simply reinforced previously held views.
Auchincloss trotted out some financial records yesterday for the rebuttal video. Fox Entertainment paid Jackson’s Neverland Valley Entertainment $3 million for the rights to the show.
The prosecutor likes to remind everyone that Jackson had $38,000 in cash on hand in February 2003, and $10 million in payables. He never explains how Jackson continued to live and run Neverland under those conditions. It must seem like a mystery to the jury. But the simple answer is that Marc Schaffel, Jackson’s associate, loaned him millions at the time. Now he’s suing to get it back.
Schaffel, as Jackson’s partner, made the rebuttal video and the Fox deals to bring some much-needed cash into Neverland. Maybe everyone’s forgotten what offers Jackson and Schaffel were getting back in February 2003 for anything that could be broadcast.
As I wrote in this space on Feb. 17, 2003, NBC actually offered to bump “Dateline” and pay $5 million if Jackson and Schaffel would sell them the outtakes of the Bashir documentary.
NBC's executive vice president of business affairs on the West Coast, Marc Graboff, made the offer to Jackson and his team on Feb. 11, 2003. Graboff was acting on information sent to him by “Dateline” executive producer David Corvo.
In a memo to Jackson's camp obtained by this column, Graboff wrote: "Unlike with other networks, the acquisition of the rights to the special on NBC will have the added benefit of pre-empting NBC's planned broadcast of the one hour Dateline scheduled for February 17th."
Sting’s incredibly successful year-long world tour comes to an end tomorrow night in New York.
The occasion will be a private show for friends and family at a smallish venue in Manhattan. I don’t think I’m allowed to say where it is, but here’s a clue: he’ll follow the son.
Congrats, Sting. I wish I could be there, but Judge Melville in the Michael Jackson case is very adamant about everyone showing up out here. He almost ordered a bench warrant for Mark Geragos yesterday.
Maer Roshan’s Radar magazine, coming back to life after a long hiatus, is already on shaky ground. It was reported in a New York paper the other day that Radar has a story about Jennifer Lopez and a botched documentary ordered by Andy Lack at Sony.
Of course, that anecdote ran as part of a larger story on Lopez in this space on Jan. 20, 2005. Radar had better fix its antenna before heading off into the deep dark sea of celebrity journalism. It’s cold out here!